Fit to ride

Posted in Riding Schooling and Training Fitness

Follow our three-part exercise series to maximise your strength and condition in as little as 30 minutes

Horse rider running to keep fit

Workout one

This is the entry level workout. Over the next two issues, the exercises will become progressively harder. If you struggle with any of the exercises, taper them down to suit you. 

Circuit One

Perform each exercise one after another. Repeat the circuit three times with no rest between each set. 


This circuit is designed to get your heart, lungs and muscles working, and focus the effort on your large muscle groups. Keep a regular rhythm and try to keep your speed up, too. 

Walking step-ups

Walking step-ups exercise for riders

  • 10 reps (each leg)

Step one Start with your right leg, step up, then bring your left leg onto the step and step off with the right. 

Step two Imagine you’re running onto the box and then back off as quickly as you can. Keep your speed up and pump your arms, too. 

Press-ups on your knees

Press-ups on your knees exercise for horse riders

  • 10 reps

Step one Keeping your elbows into your sides, lower your chest to the ground, keeping your head in line with your body. 

Step two Pull your tummy muscles in and don’t allow your back to arch. You should pivot on your knees with a straight back.

Coaching points

Push your hips forward so that your shoulders are over your hands, and your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. 

Bodyweight squats

Bodyweight squat exercise for riders

  • 10 reps

Step one Keep your chest up, your knees over your feet and don’t lift your heels. Imagine you’re sitting down in a chair. Your knees should end at right angles. 

Step two To stand up again, squeeze your bottom and push your feet into the ground hard. 

Coaching points

Stand with your feet directly below your hips and parallel with each other. Keep the weight in your heels and the balls of you feet. Lift your toes into the top of your shoe to prevent you from falling forwards. 

Stability ball knee-ins

Stability ball knee-ins, exercise for riders

  • 10 reps

Coaching points

Lie on your back with the stability ball under your heels and your knees bent into your chest. 

Step one Your hips should be off the floor in the start position, with your knees bent and weight engaged onto the ball. If you’re finding it difficult to find your balance, put your arms out to the sides for support. 

Step two Straighten your legs and force the ball out, pushing your hips upwards as you do so. 

Step three Using your hamstrings and calves, pull the ball towards your bottom and drop your hips down as if to touch the floor, but don’t be tempted to rest here. 

Step-up to balance

Step-up to balance, exercise for riders

  • 10 reps (each leg)

Hold for two seconds each time

Step one Bring your right leg up onto the step with your toes facing forwards.  

Step two Step up and lift your left knee up to waist height, flexing your knee, hip and ankle. 

Step three Step straight off keeping your chest up and repeat with the other leg. 

Static lunges with ball or weight

Static lunges with ball or weight, exercise for riders

  • 10 reps (each leg)

Coaching points

Keep your shoulders and pelvis straight and level, and your weight equally distributed. 

Step one Stand with your tummy pulled in, your arms straight above your head and your spine in a neutral position, which means pulling your tummy button in and not arching your back. 

Step two Lunge forwards dropping your knee towards the floor. Keep your arms straight above your head and your chest up. 

Step three Push backwards so you return to the start position. Repeat on the other leg. 

Circuit TWO – core work

This circuit should be repeated twice, with no rest between the exercises. 

Plank on knees

Plank on knees, exercise for horse riders

  • 2 reps


If you suffer with high blood pressure, it’s wise to avoid static holds such as the plank. Instead, go into the position and hold for no more than two lots of five seconds. 

Step one Lie on the ground with your hands clasped and your elbows close to your body underneath your shoulders. 

Step two Lift your hips off the floor, keeping your tailbone tucked forwards so that you are not arching your back. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Your elbows and your neck should be straight.

Toe touches

Toe Touches, exercise for horse riders

  • 10 reps

If you can keep your legs straight, excellent, but don’t worry if you can’t. Just keep them off the floor as much as possible. 

Step one Raise your arms above your shoulders and your legs above your hips. 

Step two Use your abdominal muscles to lift your shoulders off the floor. Aim to touch your toes, but make sure your shoulder blades come off the floor. 

Dorsal raises arms by sides

Dorsal raises, exercise for horse riders

  • 10 reps

Coaching points

Lie face down with your forehead on the mat. This will keep your neck in alignment with your spine. 

Step one Lie face down with your arms by your sides and your hands and feet resting on the floor. 

Step two Lift your chest and shoulders by contracting your lower back muscles. Don’t throw your head back. The muscles running down your back and bottom should be engaged, not your neck.


Hold each of these stretches for a minimum of 30 seconds. It should feel uncomfortable but not painful.

After exercise stretches for horse riders

  • Triceps Push your elbow down, hold your head up
  • Hamstrings Keep your feet flat on the floor 
  • Quadriceps Keep your knees together
  • Chest Squeeze your elbows together behind you
  • Calves Front leg straight and lift your toes
  • Back Squeeze your knees into your chest 

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Horse&Rider July 21 issue

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